In the last couple of posts I’ve discussed the dying days of comedies being nominated for Oscars and in this year’s nominations I’ll be surprised to see at least one broad comedy. Comedies now have to either have an indie vibe to them or be some sort of riotous romp. It’s sad that in an era where we know exactly what an ‘Oscar Film’ is there’s very little room for the comedy. In fact the last time a comedy film won the Best Picture was over thirty-five years ago.
That film was Woody Allen’s Annie Hall, a film that I’ve previously watched on a number of occasions both to study academically and to watch for pleasure. As well as a win for Best Picture, the film saw Diane Keaton win a Best Actress prize for her role as the movie’s eponymous protagonist. t. The majority of the film centres round the relationship between Annie and Allen’s stand-up comedian Alvy Singer. The narrative structure of the film is such that it starts midway through the relationship before taking us back to the time when Alvy and Annie first met. As Annie Hall is a proper romantic comedy it explores the differences between the uptight Alvy and the more free and easy Annie. He overthinks everything while she’d rather go with the flow and this obviously puts a strain on their relationship. Alvy’s comic asides also look back at the character’s past whether it be stealing a kiss as a child or his previous marriage everything is put under the microscope. Inevitably, the relationship begins to crumble as Annie begins to look elsewhere for love and finds it briefly with Paul Simon’s record producer Tony Lacey. Though this comedy doesn’t have a traditional happy ending, it does give you hope for the two characters, that you are more than invested in thanks to Allen’s brilliant script.
Annie Hall is often considered to be Woody Allen’s masterpiece, but in my opinion I think he’s made better films before and since. I believe that a large piece of the film’s success can be credited to Allen’s script. The semi-autobiographical nature of Annie Hall’s screenplay is something that I enjoy and I felt that it oozed with honesty throughout. Despite him creating a fictional character for himself, smarter audience members obviously can draw parallels between Alvy and Allen. Similarly, Diane Keaton has claimed that Annie Hall is incredibly similar to her own personality that Woody got to know on previous films that they worked together on. Due to this fact both Allen and Keaton are superb throughout and add an awkward chemistry to their relationship which makes it utterly realistic. Keaton is particularly strong as she brings a likeability to a character who could’ve easily come off as quite nasty in the hands of a lesser actress. In addition there are some fantastic supporting roles most notably from Tony Roberts as Alvy’s friend Rob and then unknown Christopher Walken as Annie’s brother Duane. Annie Hall is the perfect length for a comedy film as it’s only just over ninety minutes long and the story fits perfectly into this time frame. With most of the characters being instantly identifiable, the script being full of pithy one-liners and the cast being unanimously brilliant there’s no denying that Annie Hall is a great film. Even though I do think some comedy films since 1977 have possibly deserved the Best Picture award, I’d be happy if Annie Hall got to held up the legacy for what a great comedy film should be.